Hands-Off the Chicken

kcan2

Songster
Oct 18, 2019
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MI
It seems in attempting to appear in the line of “expert,” one must always fall short in some aspect or be humbled by those more knowledgeable. Therefore, I claim no expertise in any one thing, excepting that I can’t seem to stop wanting to hold a chicken.

I know that this habit probably goes against the chicken’s natural dispensations, and that the temptation to hold the chicken is probably related to being a relatively new chicken owner; but once captured, the bird seems pretty quiet and docile. When they are on the ground, they will eat treats from my hand, but if the hand is empty, it is every chicken for himself.

I have truly tried to keep my hands off of my chickens, and having recently acquired a cute and tiny hen, I figured that I had a “clean slate.” Not wanting to induce the “flee for your life” mentality as I somehow did in my rooster (who started out generally unafraid of capture), I avoided picking the new hen up. At first, she showed no fear of The Hands. However, after a couple of weeks of hanging out with my rooster and to my dismay, she now also flees from The Hands or The Feet (also known as The Boots). Did the rooster somehow manage to teach her this behavior through bad example? Or did he give her some bad advice?

I really can’t believe this as these chickens don’t produce anything except poop (no eggs yet), get daily access to a veritable chicken buffet, and are generally spoiled with cheese shreds, access to mirrors, a fully functional dust bath, are kept in a heated garage for the winter, and have a mansion for a coop.

I am sometimes haunted by the question, ”will my rooster ever trust me enough to fly on my lap again?” Have I ruined his trust forever? Has he permanently taught the new hen his naughty habit? I really would just like to be able to pet them sometimes without picking them up.

On a side note, the chickens provide a great source of daily entertainment and I really do not take them too seriously. But, I am curious to understand the psychology behind why my chickens are so chicken-hearted and if this behavior can at all be remedied!
 

rosemarythyme

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Jul 3, 2016
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A lot of it has to do with individual personalities... I've raised all my chickens from chickhood and despite growing up in the same environment, some really don't want to be touched and are content with some distance, while others will try to follow you around or even beg to be picked up.

You're already winning them over with treats. Spending time with them in a non threatening manner (sitting down and reading, just walking around or gardening nearby) will help further that bond. Also consider how it looks to them when you approach them... i.e. if you're standing upright, that makes you look bigger, if you crouch down, that's less threatening and they're a little less likely to run away. But some birds may never quite get to the point of wanting to be touched, and if that's the case, I personally would minimize handling to just health checks and general management.
 

kcan2

Songster
Oct 18, 2019
82
410
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MI
Thanks for your response, having never raised chicks I was interested to know if handling carries over to adulthood, but it sounds like it is based on their personalities, as you said. Since mine seem more like pets, I would prefer the kind that beg to be picked up, but I will keep trying to win the permission to pet them with bribery (treats)!
 

kcan2

Songster
Oct 18, 2019
82
410
116
MI
My chickens have never allowed me to pick them up which makes the task of assessing their health difficult. They won't allow me to pet them either. But I wish you luck in your endeavor. Please pass on your technique if you manage to become closer friends with your chickens.

I also wanted to express how much I enjoy your writing and your humor.
Thank you for the nice compliment @Galeann ! You can rest assured I will keep trying and if I ever crack the chicken taming code, I'm sure the secret will get out because I can't stop talking about/messing with them!
 

gtaus

Crowing
Mar 29, 2019
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I have 10 chickens, 10 different breeds. I don't spend any time trying to "tame" my chickens to be held. And, for the most part, my chickens don't want anything to do with me unless I have food in hand. Having said that, I have one ISA Brown that jumps up on the ledge every morning when I open the pop door for the girls. She lets me pick her up and pet her. Which I do. But she is the only hen in my small flock that has shown any people friendliness.

I have read many threads on how to tame your chickens, but they all take face time with the birds over an extended period of time. Here is a YouTube video on how one young woman managed to tame her pet chicken. It might give you some ideas.


If you get to the point of actually holding one of your chickens, you might want to first look at a YouTube video of how to properly hold a chicken, by people who do it for a living.


When handling small animals, I have always found it best to be firm, but gentle, so the animal knows you have control but that it is safe in your hands and will not fall. Good luck.
 

kcan2

Songster
Oct 18, 2019
82
410
116
MI
I have 10 chickens, 10 different breeds. I don't spend any time trying to "tame" my chickens to be held. And, for the most part, my chickens don't want anything to do with me unless I have food in hand. Having said that, I have one ISA Brown that jumps up on the ledge every morning when I open the pop door for the girls. She lets me pick her up and pet her. Which I do. But she is the only hen in my small flock that has shown any people friendliness.

I have read many threads on how to tame your chickens, but they all take face time with the birds over an extended period of time. Here is a YouTube video on how one young woman managed to tame her pet chicken. It might give you some ideas.


If you get to the point of actually holding one of your chickens, you might want to first look at a YouTube video of how to properly hold a chicken, by people who do it for a living.


When handling small animals, I have always found it best to be firm, but gentle, so the animal knows you have control but that it is safe in your hands and will not fall. Good luck.
Wow, great information! Thank you for the helpful input!
 

Acre4Me

Crowing
Nov 12, 2017
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Chickens are prey animals, so it is hardwired in their brains to flee from any threat. Some breeds are flightier than others, all their lives. Most others seem to mellow out when they begin to lay, so I'll guess yours will likely mellow out.

We have had numerous breeds, and by far the most mellow that we have had are the Salmon Faverolles. This might be a good and fluffy option for you in the future. They do not freak out when held, do not run when approached (particularly now that they are laying), are fairly quiet, and not overly large. We have had several EE and one in particular is quite fine with handling, but the kid (tween, now young teen) handled this particular one A LOT when it was little and every day since, so the bird had no other experience or maybe it was just was just that bad at avoiding capture by the kid. We have a Redcap female that is the most curious and social of any of our birds, however, it may just be her individual temperament bc another BYC poster indicated that their Redcaps from the same source (and possibly same year) were much flightier and not so friendly. We have a female Black Jersey Giant (age 21 months) and she has always been more of a loner, even within the flock, and is not much for handling and never has been, but its her personality. We have another BJG from the same breeder that is 5 months and she seems more social and interactive, but was raised by a momma hen, so she isn't to keen on the humans.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Since mine seem more like pets, I would prefer the kind that beg to be picked up,
Get a dog? :D

I had one bird in particular that actually did beg to be picked up.
She did it for about 2-3 months, then reverted to fleeing after POL.
Coincidentally when a chick she hated to be held, never stopped screaming and struggling while being held despite frequent and ongoing 'training'.
 
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